Last week, I found a copy of The Scientist lying on kitchen counter that dealt with, in a purely scientific form, sex. It was subtitled: “Sex…virtually all animals do it, but scientists still don’t know how or why it evolved.”
Out of curiosity, I read most of it. Between a cross-species commentary on sex drive, the consideration of a homosexuality gene, a frank assessment of treatment of female sexual dysfunction, and a few other bits and pieces, it was actually very interesting.
By contrast, the last issue of Cosmo I read (left shoved under the register by a co-worker at the coffee bar), was loaded with articles dealing with what men really want in bed, how to deal with your toilette (isn’t that a fun, archaic word?) after an “unexpected adult sleepover” at your boyfriend’s house, a debate on the merits of female vs. male gynecologists, and an excerpt from the latest Harlequin bestseller. Same topic, different take.
But neither of them answered my most puzzling question about sex, namely: why, when both popular and scientific media have widely publicized the act, is it so taboo?
For example: just because I’m discussing sex in this post, I have to mark it as PG-13. I haven’t said anything sordid or crass and I have no intention of doing so – just the same, I’m obligated to mark it as PG-13. Some could say this is because those under 12 are unable to grasp the concept, but the same can be said about politics, extreme paranoia, non-Euclidean geometry and most of my other posts. Thus far, one has yet reported me for not sticking a rating on any of those.
But sex? That’s got to have some sort of barrier in front of it.
Firstly, I’m not saying that we should scrap ratings or encourage public sex, but I am wondering when the act became an embarrassment. Secondly, I recognize that this is a high cultural thing – the US in particular is very uptight on the subject, possibly because our founding fathers were Puritans.
This dislike of sex, however, did not originate with them. There was, at one point, a time when Europe (England especially) was covering table legs, piano legs, and anything else that looked like a leg; in polite society one did not mention “limbs” and books on “population control” were considered obscene. And yet…this is the same time period which was shoving women into corsets to give them, let’s admit it, a sexy figure.
There is this duality – a ban on all mention of procreation (or, gasp, recreation), while at the same time encouraging people, women in particular, to dress in ways that, while they may not be provocative, are certainly attractive. While the extreme aberration to sex had its backlash in the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s, the issue never really resolved itself, particularly in the United States. There still remains the desire, and encouragement, to be sexy, while there exists a moral ban on the act of sex itself. It is a fine and extremely uncomfortable line.
I guess my point to all of this is that I don’t, from a common sense perspective, understand any of this. Oh, I get that it’s really just the pressure of two sets of moral thinking essentially playing “Dueling Banjos,” but, from someone who is standing on that fine and uncomfortable line, it’s more than a little frustrating.
Among other things, I would like to be able to read a trashy romance novel without there being this general sense I should feel guilty for doing so.